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Thoughts on Grenada

November 19, 2017
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2017 summer in Grenada proved to be the best decision we could have made. No doubt everyone has read the reports from the devastating hurricane season in the Caribbean. We’ve already met three people who lost their boats in the northern islands and are here in Grenada looking to purchase a replacement.

Luckily Grenada escaped a hurricane this year. I am a little premature in saying this as the season hasn’t officially ended and doesn’t till the end of the month. However, I feel confident that we’re OK and can start slowly moving north while keeping an eye on the weather reports.

Grenada has been a good place to stop for us. Not cruising, we decided to take the opportunity of a marina slip with close access to the main town, transportation to most of the island, and the freedom to come at go at will as opposed to anchorages on the east side of the island which are sometimes exposed to the weather and are not as convenient to get back and forth to.

We’ve done a lot of small jobs on Sage as well as hauled out for new bottom paint and a few other small ‘below the water line’ jobs.

However, Grenada is not cheap nor is it an easy place to get or do work on the boat. All imported items are subject to a hefty tax and then on top of that the shipping to the island costs a lot. All imported boat items have to be imported through an agent which again adds a cost to the item.

Having work done for you here brings another dimension to the maintenance of boats. Our experience is quite typical. We had a new awning built which, if we had a strong enough sewing machine and a space to work, we could have made quite easily ourselves. We thought having someone make it would be easy.

First we had to get some quotes. The quotes varied by as much as 50%. Getting quotes took a week to coordinate with the respective companies to come to the boat and talk about what we wanted done. After another week we received the quotes and made a decision. Since there is no-one here who stocks the material used it has to be ordered from the US. We assumed that was easy, quick and included in the price. 4 weeks later the material arrived. That wasn’t without constantly contacting the awning maker to ask why the material was held up in Miami, Trinidad and Brazil according to the tracking information. With comments from the maker like ‘god willing’ and responses from me saying it has nothing to do with god but needs some severe prodding to the courier company the material finally arrives.

Now the hard part starts. The maker has the material, he has the order, he has 1/2 the cost so when is it going to be done? In the end, 8 weeks from placing the order the items are finished. A good job but like everything here it’s like pulling teeth.

In conclusion, I hope I never have to make a major repair in Grenada. Expensive, frustrating and slow. On more technical projects I would worry greatly about expertise.

Not only have we worked on the boat but we have also volunteered teaching kids to read. Saturdays were the days to head up to the school and jump in with the kids to read a story, play a game, sing a song and help the kids with their literacy. It was a great opportunity to connect locally and I think we’ll miss the foray to the school.

Trips around the island, Tuesday nights at the Brewery for the cruisets amateur music nights and visits to the waterfalls will be good memories of Grenada.

The other side of Grenada life is well spelt out in the following article – – Grenada poverty

“Grenada, twice the size of Washington, DC, has a GDP per Capita of $3,900 USD. In 2011, domestic workers received a minimum monthly wage of $277.99 (formerly $148) and the minimum wage for a security guard was $2.96 per hour (formerly $1.48). The increase was negotiated by the Wage Advisory Committee (includes representatives from the Grenada Trades’ Union Council and Grenada Employers’ Federation).

Living in the capital of Grenada, Saint George, can be expensive. Research finds that it is 87.2% more expensive than Houston, Texas for groceries; 60.5% more expensive for household costs than Kuala Lumpur, and 43.6% more expensive for transport costs than Dubai. In addition, medical treatment is expensive and medical facilities are considered adequate for general treatment; however, serious emergencies may require evacuation.”

Yes, life here in the islands is not idyllic. It is expensive, it is poor, it is friendly, it is difficult to get around, it is an expert on growing nutmeg and cocoa, it is slow, it is generally safe from hurricanes, it is full of wonderful chocolate and various spices, it is hot and humid in the summer months and it has lots of music (sometimes too much!).

And we’re leaving! So, here are a few memories in photo form.

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Feeling good

Behan, from SV Totem, shopping in the St. George market and getting some cooking advice

Ships and the port are the lifeblood of Grenada

Nutmeg and mace prices at the cooperative

Party central

And a few people we’ve met

Charter boat worker hard at work taking care of last minute details

One of the charter boat staff taking care of the last minute details

From left to right: Tim, Connie, Charlie, Tony, Karen and Margarita

 

Philip, Martin and Louise

Gary keeping busy

Torie having a windy day

Arliss and Eric getting ready to sail westward on Corroboree

Kids at school

 

False Start

November 12, 2017

After three months in Grenada we were looking forward to severing our ties to the land life. Storing everything onboard in its proper place takes a while but is necessary when crossing open channels between the islands.

We cut the dock lines, unhooked to what was the best internet reception in the Caribbean, filled the water and fuel tanks, put away the electrical cord and headed to the anchorage outside St. George’s Harbour.

Looking out over St. George’s harbour to the anchorage off Grand Anse Beach

Getting out to the anchorage allows us to complete the transformation from a ‘boat-home’ to an actual sailing vessel that will take us to unexplored ‘exotic’ locations! Dropping anchor for the first time in a while was a thrill. The boat spins to the wind. Ventilation below no longer relies on fans but blows freely through the hatches facing the wind and the boat gently, at least this time, rolls to the swell.

A pleasant and quiet night was spent with an early rise to a gentle wind from the east blowing us out of the harbour. No need to start the engine so we drifted out under full mainsail and genoa heading north along the east coast of Grenada.

Grenada

Sailing north we passed by Grand Mal but with the mountains of central Grenada towering to the east the wind soon died and dark, black threatening clouds tumbled down the leeward slopes providing gusts of rain soaked winds to batter us with and then depart leaving us drifting in circles. There was more calm than wind so we decided to motor for a while. Motoring is not what I like but with still a way to go we decided this would be the best tactic. Engine started well, speed was good, skies cleared waiting for the next gust and since the engine was running it was time to power up some of the portable devices.

Sunset in the Grand Anse anchorage

After plugging in a few devices I thought it best to check the voltage, which, with the engine running, should be at between 13.8 and 14.2V but it was at 13.2V. That immediately tells me the alternator is not charging but the solar panels are working. So, the decision must be made to keep going or turn back.

Best to turn back with St. George’s the nearest place with the possibility of getting the alternator removed and checked out.

There is only one person on the island who bench tests and repairs alternators. He is Al at Bernadine Enterprises – 473-444-8016. But, on calling, we find out he’s retired! The good part of the story is that he’s willing to take a look at it. He’s not in St. George’s, so, after a few taxi rides, we pass on the alternator to his nephew working at the Nissan garage, and returning to the boat await the prognosis. The next day Al tells us the alternator is fine. It’s returned by a reverse process of nephew and taxi/buses and we re-install the alternator. I change the fuse just in case, check the electrical lines for loose connections and start the engine.

A miracle – everything seems to be working.

Now it’s time to reverse the docking process and store everything once again and try once more to head north.

Dominica Update

November 1, 2017

Here is an interesting but sad update on the state of Dominica post hurricane Maria.

Dominica update from the Guardian

Getting Prepared (warning: this post is not for vegetarians)

October 27, 2017
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It’s fall and the anchorages and boatyards are buzzing with activity. The hurricane season is slowly winding down and thoughts are directed to moving on. People are flying in from all over the world to ready their boats for another season. Those who stayed the summer south of the hurricane belt doing odd jobs on their boats, volunteering on hurricane relief, teaching children how to read or simply enjoying life in the tropics are turning thoughts to moving on.

For Sage that means getting prepared for a movement northwards travelling through islands devastated by the past season’s hurricanes and further northward to remote islands lacking in supplies or unaffordable and dubiously dated products . With the hull being painted below the waterline, worn parts being replaced, old awnings replaced with new our attention moves to canned goods.

For 20 years of sailing adventures we have always canned our own meat to get us through those areas that don’t have fresh supplies. We choose to can as we don’t have a freezer and besides that we have been many places where freezers on other boats have failed, and, like flies, other cruisers have been beneficiaries of others failed refrigeration. For us that doesn’t happen. I won’t say we haven’t had failed refrigeration but if we have we haven’t lost a season’s supplies.

For canning we need space, a good stove with oven, refrigeration and a store with a selection of meats (you guessed it we’re not vegetarian). Close to where Sage is moored we found the perfect spot. A rental unit ($55 Cdn) with all the necessary equipment 150 metres from Sage’s stern. So our work begins. We have to dig deep into the hidden corners of Sage’s lockers to find the pressure canner , jars, lids etc. We loaded all the supplies into amarina wheelbarrow and headed off to our new two night accommodation.

Connie carting over the supplies and as usual she’s keeping ‘left’

It’s the end result we are most interested in. It’s a long time coming as each batch takes 90 minutes to process. Each load takes either 5 pint jars or 10 1/2 pint jars and sometimes during the processing one of the jars breaks in the pressure canner

we manage to can 32 jars of meat which means 1 can per day for a month. We don’t use it like that but rather as a supplement to what is available locally. Throughout most of the Caribbean we should be able to use local products but once in the Bahamas our understanding is supplies are limited and expensive. We hope to be in deserted anchorages with crystal clear waters covered in conch. We’re a little tired of ‘lambi’ (conch) as it’s a feature in all the Caribbean islands so our cans of meat will be welcomed.

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The End Result

Equipment needed:

1 pressure canner – must be capable of maintaining a pressure of 10-15 lb/sq.in Preference is for a canner with a gauge

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Glass jars with accompanying screw rings and disposable lids

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Tool for lifting hot jars

Stove top with oven if possible

Lots of hot water

Meat – your choice. Remember the meat is gets well cooked so no need to buy expensive cuts

A bundle of towels for handling and drying equipment

 

Summertime in the tropics

October 19, 2017
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Summertime -in the tropics? It’s not something I can recommend but the one good thing is that it has saved us from the devastating effects of the hurricanes that  have ravaged the northern windward islands of the Caribbean.

 

Or:

Love both versions

We haven’t been very adventurous preferring to stay in Grenada for the past three months enjoying the various Grenadian offerings of carnival, waterfall visits, jerk chicken and occasionally a movie at the local theatre (best show yet has been Bladerunner 2040).

We have also managed to get a little bit of work done on the boat. We hauled out at the end of September, Connie returned to Ontario and I  have been getting the odd jobs done on the boat while on dry land and then re-launched where work continued.  We should be ready for the winter season and a migration that will take us northwards.

Food is always of interest. I won’t say the Caribbean is the food-hounds paradise. Choices vary from jerk chicken to fish with what they call provisions which is things such as plantain, breadfruit, taro and potatoes

St. George’s is built on a hillside so as soon as one leaves the core it’s climb up the hill with the positive results of getting nice views

View overlooking St. George’s harbour towards the marina we are in called Port Louis

Now Grenada does have great chocolate. This is my favourite downtown shop also known as the chocolate museum. Has great milkshakes

Then there are the rum factories. here is one still using a water wheel to crush the cane. There’s such a variety of rum one can have a great time sampling them all

And then there are always the dramas that happen.

Post Hurricane Maria – Dominica – how to help

September 21, 2017

Dominica is one of our favourite Caribbean Island nations. Historically Dominica was invaded and controlled by France and England. In 1978 Dominica gained independence from Britain and since then has charted its own course. It’s often referred to as the ‘island of nature’ with volcanic craters, a lake called ‘Boiling Lake’, a large rainforest and lush flora and fauna. The national GDP is approximately $520 million with an estimated population of 75,000.

Most other Caribbean island nations maintain close ties to their colonizers; Martinique/Guadeloupe/St. Marteen are departments of France with full financial supports nd robust economies. US Virgin Islands (USVI) and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have connections to the United States and Britain respectively and have high powered wealthy residents like Richard Branson to advocate and rebuild.

Dominica is alone. With few cruise ships, only one large resort now under construction, a rural economy and a few yachties visiting it has few resources to recover. When we toured the island earlier in the year they were still using ‘temporary’ bridges that were constructed after the extensive damage caused from flooding in tropical storm Erica in 2015.

How can one help a country that doesn’t have a resident celebrity to advocate for them nor a robust tourist sector rebuild from a Force 5 hurricane? According to early reports Rouseau, the capital, has been devastated with over 85% of homes blown down or roofs missing and major institutions crippled. Little has been heard from the back country as I am sure bridges have once again disappeared and communication towers and power lines destroyed. We do know in the north, Portsmouth, that the hospital’s roof got blown off.

Here in St George’s, Grenada, boats are headed north with supplies. There are tugs, barges, motor and sailboats headed up with emergency materials today and over the next couple of weeks for which we have helped buy goods. But it’s the longer term where help is needed and where perhaps you as readers of the blog can find somewhere to donate/help Dominica directly.

We don’t want Dominca’s plight to be lost in the onslaught of calls for help from the more ‘star-studded’playgrounds of the Caribbean. Their plight is real but Dominca will get lost and forgotten in the mix.

Hurricane Maria

Media – recent media coverage on Dominica and Hurricane Maria

October 19th NYCEastern Caribbean Relief Fund

NY Times update on how to help

Update Sept 28th

BBC report

The Guardian’s recent story on Hurricane Maria

Washington Post

Sept 22nd CNN

Possible places to give help – we will update this section as time goes on

Help a Dominican rebuild

Dominica disaster relief facebook

Crowdfunding organization

while this was written for assistance to Irma’s victims this may be a good resource for Dominica in the coming weeks

Looking for someone or reporting on someone

All Mash Up

September 19, 2017

Lying safetly here in the marina in Grenada Connie just came back from the pool. She spent the last hour trying to cool down while playing in the pool with a young girl, Daniella, who escaped Virgin Gorda onboard Nekker Belle, Richard Branson’s yacht. She was telling Connie how Hurricane Irma ‘all mash up’ Virgin Gorda with the school house roof gone, the trees all blown down and people who have no houses.

This is the second time Nekker Belle has been in the marina. The first time was to escape Hurricane Irma and now escaping Hurricane Maria.

It’s all very sad and now we add Dominica to the list of islands devestated by the 2017 hurricane season.

We’re glad we made the decision to head south as we had been tempted to stay in either Antigua or Martinique which both learnt the fury of a Level 5 hurricane. There are plenty of videos to watch on line taken during these storms and it’s unthinkable how a boat like ours would survive. It’s all a matter of luck as where one would seek protection and what would happen to other boats around you.

Now we just have to watch uwhat is going to happen to Lee. I can hardly wait for the end of this hurricane season but we still have about 6 weeks to go then we will be wending our way north and through many of the islands that will be trying to recover.

 

Updates and additional readings

1 – Comments in the New Yorker

2 – If you feel you want to help in some way here are some ideas that come from the SVTotem’s blog site. Click here